Mickey Hargitay is probably best known as the father of Mariska Hargitay who plays Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU. While he was known as one of the pioneers of bodybuilding, Hargitay did have an acting career. This started when Jayne Mansfield made sure he was cast in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter. This role led to Jayne hooking up with Mickey, they married and had kids including Mariska. Mickey’s cinematic career flourished in Italy when the sword and scandal epics were being cranked out. He played Hercules in The Loves of Hercules with one of his loves being Jayne. He remained popular in Rome after his divorce from Jayne and her death. He rode the range in a few Spaghetti Westerns. One of his more impressive roles was in Delirium (Delirio Caldo), a Giallo film from 1972. If you’d seen the original American release of the film, you got a different performance from him than the original Italian cut. Now both versions are on a Blu-ray.
The movie starts off without giving us a touch of mystery. Dr. Herbert Lyutak (Mickey Hargitay) is hanging out at a bar when he offers to give a girl a lift. She accepts and hops in his car. The guy seems trustworthy since he’s a psychiatrist. The ride quickly turns dark. We learn fast that Lyutak is a serial killer. After his latest victim, he goes home to his wife Marzia (The Reincarnation of Isabel‘s Rita Calderoni) where we discover he’s dealing with serious intimacy issues. How is he able to operate so freely in the town? Turns out that he works with the police on tracking down suspects for murder. He’s been able to cover his tracks very well. Except this time, he made a mistake. While the officers are rather shocked that a witness has identified their pal, they aren’t going to scoff off the lead. They set a trap to see if Herbert is really the killer. The cops hide out and see if Herbert takes the bait. Right before he’s about to get busted, they get a report that the killer has struck again. We know Herbert is the killer so what’s happening? The good news is that there’s a lot of weirdness about to be revealed.
Delirium is one of those movies that you hand a pal and say, “Watch it.” You don’t want to over describe things, so newbies won’t have a clue as how crazy things get. Herbert doesn’t just kill. He’s got a secret dungeon set up. The Blu-ray features both cuts of the film. The American version somehow wants to explain Herbert’s condition through his time in Vietnam and twist the ending. This American cut almost as messed up as the Italian version of the film. Mickey Hargitay is a revelation as the creepy killer shrink. It’s not his voice, but his reactions and faces in strange circumstances. He is credible as both the shrink authority and the out-of-control psychopath. Plus, he and Rita Calderoni look like the kind of married couple that would be revealed as having such a dark and twisted marriage. Delirium is delirious.
The Video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 4K transfer and restoration was taken from the original 35mm camera negative. The 1080p image brings out the details and the actors reflect a lot of sweat in the killing scenes. The audio is DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono in Italian. You’ll clearly hear the screams of the attacks. The movie is subtitled.
Audio Commentary with film historians Eugenio Ercolani and Troy Howarth. The two men feel that Polselli has been misunderstood over the decades. They are happy many of his films are coming out in Blu-ray. They get into whether Delirium is Giallo. There’s also talk about having the right look for an Italian film since you don’t have to remember your lines.
The Polselli Clan (36:52) lets Vanessa Polselli talk about her father director Renato Polselli. She gets into his life and career. She talks about seeing him in his armchair as he quietly imagined a movie idea. She gets into their trip to the local winery and how he observed people. She goes into how he was a perfectionist with the camera when they went on family trips.
Fear and Delirium in Cinecittà (31:14) is a never-before-seen archival interview with actor Mickey Hargitay. He talks about his career in Italian cinema. He reflects on his time as Hercules. Turns out American International signed him for a five-picture deal to make sword and sandal parts in Rome. He explains the conversation that led him to making Spaghetti Westerns. He talks about how because of his accent, he couldn’t make Hollywood westerns. But in Italy, they’d be dubbing him. Hargitay passed away in 2006.
The Polselli Factor (14:39) features Filmmaker and film historian Luca Rea discussing the career of his friend Renato Polselli. He was inspired to work in horror after seeing Hammer’s Dracula. This led to The Vampire and the Ballerina. He did war movies and comedies in the ’60s too. We get sense of how Polselli made so many films when the Italian film industry was at its peak. He gets into the Vietnam War version of the film.
Gothic Polselli (12:44) gives us more time with legendary screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi. First we get a great story involving an argument with Sergio Leone that ended 20 years later. He gets into his gothic collaborations with Renato Polselli. They had started their friendship early in their careers. While their first collaboration on a script went nowhere, their next with The Vampire and the Ballerina. The production proved a bit of a mess and Gastraldi almost became director during production.
The Theorem of Delirium (14:23) is an archival interview with director Renato Polselli and actor Mickey Hargitay. Polselli talks about using the name Ralph Brown on his Spaghetti Westerns. The two worked on a few films in Rome. Mickey points out that Arnold Schwarzenegger played him in the Jayne Mansfield Story with Loni Anderson as Jayne. Poselli believes his low budgets helped make things better on the set since everyone knew they didn’t have money to waste on star behavior. He gets into how he cast Rita Calderoni for her lack of inhibitions. Actor and director discuss the Italian and the American cuts of the film.
Alternate American version of DELIRIUM (85:53) is sourced from video. This contains the Vietnam War footage that mixes Mickey in the woods with stock footage from the battles in Southeast Asia. We are supposed to believe that he originally met his wife when he was injured in combat and she was a nurse on the medical helicopter. We cut from him being treated to picking up his first victim at a bar. It has the English dub track.
Vinegar Syndrome presents Delirium. Directed by Renato Polselli. Screenplay by Renato Polselli. Starring Mickey Hargitay, Rita Calderoni, Raul Lovecchio, Carmen Young, Christa Barrymore, Tano Cimarosa, Marcello Bonini Olas and Katia Cardinali. Running Time: 102 minutes. Rating: Unrated. Release Date: August 29, 2023.